All that Glitters: Visual Representations of Dress in the Early Modern and the Boundaries of Reliability

Dressing The Early Modern Network Conference

September 14-15, 2017, Kunstgewerbemuseum & Lipperheidesche Kostümbibliothek, Kulturforum, Berlin, Germany

Since few garments survive from the early modern period, especially pre-1700, reliance on depictions of early modern dress in art is unavoidable. Dress and textile representations in paintings, drawings, prints, costume books, album amicorum and sculptures form some of the main visual sources, which in addition to possibilities have various limitations with regards to reliability and interpretation. From fantasy draperies and studio props to true to life portrayals of the sitter’s real garments, the implications of what pictorial representations can offer to dress historians are innumerable and complex.

While in some cases depictions of dress and textiles can act as tools for interpretations of paintings, in others, such as some depictions of dress and fabric worn in the overseas colonies are merely akin to fantasy dress in art. Portrayals of the elite largely survive providing information about the dress worn by the upper echelons in society. However, do such portrayals depict innovations in dress style and textile patterns accurately or do they merely portray a traditional form of dress that conforms to the specific genres of the various visual mediums? Furthermore, such portrayals are scarce in regard to clothing worn by other classes of society and in many cases the context in which they were depicted may have affected the representation. The conference aims to generate a discussion about the extent to which visual sources can be reliable in providing an accurate representation and understanding of the changes and innovations in dress, textiles, fur, haberdashery and jewellery with regards to the context in which they are depicted and used.

PhD students and early career researchers are invited to speak using case studies about the reliability of visual representations in relation to mapping fashion in the early modern. The conference invites potential speakers to submit as a single document: (1) a 300-word paper abstract, which should include the main question of the research project or paper, (2) a paper title, (3) a brief curriculum vitae and a short biography of 150 words maximum, (4) institutional affiliations and (5) contact information to the Dressing the Early Modern Network. Each speaker will be allotted twenty minutes.

The deadline for submissions is May 30, 2017. Notification of the outcome will be advised by e-mail on or before June 15, 2017.